Stirring up memories
Letters From Home
May 25, 2005
Tuesday is Flag Day. The Stars and
Stripes will be waving over my house, and waving all over the country. We’ll think of all the Americans
who have served and defended that flag in many places and many times. Here’s a salute to all of them,
and especially one of them.
tough being away from home.
It’s tougher when you are half-way around the world and fighting a
war to boot. For all time, the
greatest boost to the morale of those away at war has been contact with home.
many of today’s service members, it’s not too hard. The folks serving in Afghanistan and Iraq and other far-flung posts
often have access to the telephone or the internet so they can keep up with
their loved ones while they are defending all of us.
this has not always been so.
the waning days of World War II the soldiers in the European Theater were
almost constantly on the move. The
mail wasn’t following them.
seven million American personnel (this included everyone from General
Eisenhower to U.S.O. workers and civilian personnel) were spread across Europe. The
mail came in through Birmingham,
England and in
the spring of 1945, it was severely backed up, when a bunch of heroines
appeared on the scene. They cleaned
the place up, rolled up their khaki sleeves and went to work around the
clock. They were the 800 enlisted
women and thirty officers of the 6888th Central Postal Directory
Battalion. Wacs to the rescue.
had a separate card for every one of those seven million people. When troops moved, they kept up with
them. The backlog disappeared
mail moving right on up to the front lines.
is noteworthy about the women of the 6888th was that in those days
of the segregated Army, every one of them was an African-American. These were the first black women to
serve the United States Army overseas. They arrived in Glasgow in the middle of February of
1945. Later, they moved on and put in the
outstanding performance in France.
These women did their great
in part, because they had a great commander. Charity Adams (Earley) was born 87
years ago on March 20, 1918.
grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, the daughter of a minister
and a school teacher. No one
when she graduated as valedictorian of Booker T. Washington High School. She headed off to college and graduated
from Wilberforce University
in Ohio. She was a mighty bright girl—she
majored in science and math!
then taught school back in Columbia
for a while and went to graduate school at the same time.
so many young Americans, Charity’s life changed when the war began. As soon as the Women’s Army
Auxiliary Corps (later the Women’s Army Corps) began seeking applicants,
Charity was there to sign up.
entered the very first Officer’s Training Class held at Ft. Des Moines
in Iowa. In August, 1942 she became the first
African-American woman to be commissioned as an officer in the WAAC. For a while she continued at Ft. Des
Moines, training other women to serve their
progressed quickly and received several promotions. But her dream, her goal was to serve
overseas. At that time it was
policy that the African-American women could not serve do so.
changed in December, 1944, when now-Major Adams was ordered to London to prepare for the arrival of the 6888th. They followed in short order and these
Wacs went to work to get the mail to the fellows at the front.
two uncles—Fred and Jack Beeman—were among those fellows. I remember the long hours my mother and
grandmother spent writing letters and hoping desperately that they would get
through to “the boys.”
When both came home, they told us how much the letters meant.
we know to thank the brave women of the 6888th!
course, more than letters crossed the ocean as families sought to cheer up
their soldiers and sailors. I also
remember Mother making up packages for Fred and Jack.
she was lucky enough to come across some butter. Other times she bought cream from a
farmer friend. She had a big
jar with a beater in it—a miniature churn. My sister and I took turns turning
handle until the cream turned into butter.
But we didn’t get much of it on our morning toast. It was set aside to make cookies for the
boys. This recipe was Jack’s
favorite. I’m going to
visit him in San Mateo, California later this spring. I believe I’ll stir up some
cookies and take them with me.
found the recipe written out in pencil in my mother’s handwriting in
1933 Pillsbury Cookbook her mother gave her when she got married.
Hunk of heaven cookies
1/2 cup butter
1/2 confectioner’s sugar
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup chopped nuts
butter and sugar together and then gradually add sifted flour and salt. Work in vanilla and nuts.
and then roll into balls about one inch in diameter. Place on a slightly greased cookie
and bake 14 to 17 minutes in a 400 degree oven or until the cookies are lightly
browned. Roll in
confectioner’s sugar while hot and again when cool.
in an airtight container.
have been doing some research on the WAC; that’s how I became interested
in the intriguing story of Charity Adams and the 6888th. I know
there are women who served in World War II who live in our region. If you are one or know one, please
me know. I am particularly interest
in finding people who served in the WAC, but I want to talk to all WWII service
If you would like to know more about the fascinating Charity Adams, read her
memoir One Woman’s Army: A Black
Officer Remembers the WAC by Charity Adams Earley.
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network